What is the National Register and How do I Nominate a Building? (Part 2)

Kevin Fayles History Main Blog

By Cory Jensen, National Register Coordinator

In a previous post, I gave some background on what the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is and what it does/does not do. In this post, I will describe how one goes about actually nominating a building and, hopefully, take some of the mystery out of the process.

Anyone can nominate a building to the NRHP—you don’t even have to be the building owner. However, the building owner will be notified and provided an opportunity to comment/object to the nomination. Preparing a good nomination that will pass the various levels of review and ultimately be listed in the Register is an art and requires an understanding of architecture, an ability to research, and piece historical facts from the research together to make a focused and cohesive argument for significance. This is why I typically will encourage those without much experience in these areas to hire a professional research consultant to do the work for them. In the end, it saves a lot of time and frustration and is well worth the dollars spent!

But for those who feel they have the experience or the drive to learn the process and aren’t in a big hurry to nominate their building, the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has some helpful resources to guide you through the process. So, if you’re interested please contact us and we can discuss these options.

For sake of space here, let’s jump to the review process and assume you (or a consultant you have hired) have prepared a nomination for your house and now want to submit it for review. The first step is to send a draft of the nomination to our office along with some good representative photographs of the building (I prefer to work through email so that we have a record of the process). This preliminary desk review works with the earliest drafts to shape the nomination into a final draft with a strong, focused statement of significance and clear description. We want the best possible product that will be ready to submit to the State Historic Preservation Review Board.

The preliminary review may go through a few revisions before a final draft is ready for the Review Board. The final draft consists of the registration form with the text, photos and required maps, drawings and figures. A copy of this draft is provided to the Review Board members prior to the Board meeting. It is also provided to the local historic preservation commission for comments and additional information. And, on top of all this, a special committee, known as the Architectural Review Committee meets to discuss the nominations prior to the Board meeting. So, let’s just say a lot of eyes see the nomination in the review process!

Because the Board members review the nomination prior to the actual Board meeting, the presentation of the nominations at the meeting can be rather anticlimactic. A 5 to 10 minute presentation showing photos and reviewing basic criteria and facts is given at the meeting. The property owner, local historic preservation commission members and local elected officials are invited to the meeting. They are provided an opportunity to give comments for the Board to consider prior to voting. Once the presentation is made and comments provided, the Board votes whether to approve, table for more information or reject the nomination. If they approve, then the nomination moves onto the federal level. If they table for more information, then the comments are noted and revisions are made to the nomination to be reviewed at the next Board meeting. If only minor revisions are requested, those can be made without requiring another Board review.

If the nomination is approved at the state level, the next step is to finalize and forward to the federal reviewers. For the final package, we do a final review of the form, making any required corrections.  All the photographs are saved in the proper format and a PDF is made of the form. These are burned onto a CD, which is then submitted to the National Register office in Washington, DC for the final deciding review.

Once the nomination reaches the federal office, it is assigned to a reviewer. Federal regulation sets their review period at 45 days to complete. If the reviewers have any concerns or questions, they will contact our office. If there are major issues with the nomination, they will send it back with a comment sheet with items for clarification or correction. However, this rarely happens as we like to ensure the nomination is clear and accurate before submitting for any review. Typically, the nomination is approved and is listed on the weekly federal register that is emailed to each state. Once it is officially listed, our office will mail notification of the listing to the property owner, local elected official and historic preservation commission.

And that is it! A property owner may receive a listing certificate from our office and, if they have some spare change laying around, can order a historical marker for the building. One primary incentive for nominating a building is the potential incentive to take historic preservation tax credits for a qualified rehabilitation project on building. The tax credits are an important part of the historic preservation world and actually drive a good portion of the National Register nominations that pass through our office.

Now that the murky waters of the National Register nomination process are clear, we encourage you to consider nominating your property. Take the first step and contact our office to see if your building may be eligible. Happy Nominating!